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Royal Hawaiian Honolulu, Hawaii post renovation 2009 [Master Thread]

Royal Hawaiian Honolulu, Hawaii post renovation 2009 [Master Thread]

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Old Mar 6, 09, 8:07 pm
  #1  
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Arrow Royal Hawaiian Honolulu, Hawaii post renovation 2009 [Master Thread]

We previously stayed at the RH pre-renovations in February 2008 and couldn't wait for our return trip this year. Spoke to Kelly prior to arrival regarding my concerns (construction noise, beach area, etc.). She calmed my nerves and I cancelled my backup reservation at the Moana Surfrider.

Had a 5-night cash+points stay reserved back in April 2008 as a Gold. I qualified for Platinum in December 2008 and called the hotel 2 weeks prior to update my credentials. Unfortunately upon check-in, they only recognized my Gold status. Within minutes, the Concierge called SPG to confirm but the best available room was a partial-ocean view in the Historic Wing facing the Tower, pool, and Diamond Head. Not as great as my panoramic ocean view room (580) in 2008 but still better than a standard garden view room.

Check-in has been moved to an area behind the elevators. They knocked down walls to allow this space to look out directly into the Coconut Grove providing an airy feel with a constant refreshing breeze.

The elevator's interior panels seem to be upgraded and the hallways have a modern design with new carpeting, chair rails, light fixtures, and wall paper. I was glad to see original doors. Also happy to see the customary banana bread welcome gift.

The modern decor carried over into the guest rooms. All furnishings (headboard, chairs, desk, dresser, vanity) have an espresso stain. However, there are touches of pink and pineapples around the room - wallpaper on an accent wall, upholstery on the chairs, bathrobes, etc.

The renovations felt most apparent in the bathrooms. They expanded the room by at least 1 foot. Sounds small on paper but my wife and I both fit in there without climbing over each other. Also, they removed the tubs in favor of a larger glass-enclosed shower. There's now an oversized vanity that could finally hold our toiletries without falling over the sides. The bathroom probably had the fanciest hairdryer I ever used:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000K7JLGM

They made use of all available space to hang towels - rack above the toilet, double rack opposite of sink, and a robe hook behind the door. By the way, they use Frette linens for all towels and sheets.

The biggest perk at the RH is their dedicated space along Waikiki Beach. As part of the renovations, they have all new umbrellas, beach chairs and chaise lounges with cushions at the pool. The pool/beach staff constantly "patrolled" the area to politely remind people (even Sheraton Waikiki guests) that the area is reserved for the RH.

Speaking of staff, it always felt like a welcoming party with the valet personnel there to offer you cold bottled water on your way out or a big smile and greet you by name when returning.

The Surf Lanai moved away from a hot breakfast buffet to an a la carte menu. If need be, they do offer a continental breakfast buffet. Breakfast entrees came out to be around $20/dish but were definitely of higher quality than the old buffet.

Azure had its grand opening day for guests on February 20th. Unfortunately I didn't meet the dress code - had the collared shirt and linen pants but didn't have covered shoes.

The construction I noticed onsite - the Spa hasn't opened yet, some landscaping in the Coconut Grove closest to the Tower, and minor table saw noise while on the beach (though no louder than conversations by other beach goers).

Random notes - I walked over to the Sheraton Waikiki's pool area. They installed a new water slide but couldn't recognize other updates.

Finally, minor gripes outside of the Gold/Platinum snafu - safe malfunctioned the 1st night where we couldn't program a code. We wore our valuables to the beach until a locksmith repaired the safe the next day. Also, the toilet's lever never returned to its original position after flushing. That meant actively moving the lever back or constantly listening to running water.

Hope this helps! Enjoy the pics (sorry don't know how to embed thumbnails):

















Full set of pics:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/3610127...7614892255852/
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Old Mar 7, 09, 10:30 am
  #2  
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Mahalo!

Thanks so much for the detailed review and the photos. Looks great. We're going back in Sept. Have stayed there frequently over the past 25 years and love the history. Looks like they've improved the hotel without making wholesale changes that would have ruined the historic building.
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Old Mar 26, 09, 1:23 pm
  #3  
 
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We were at the RH from March 12-15 - just missed the swanky gala the weekend before but the decor was still up and it was amazing. My impressions virtually echo the OP's with the following differences/additions:

We were there on points and as a Gold, we were not upgraded but the room was large and nicely appointed - 2 double beds, a table & chairs, desk, etc... The closet was enormous -- we literally could have put a roll-away in there for our daughter.

Our bathroom did have a tub but the same vanity as the OP's. We did not find it roomy at all, and wished they had expanded it a bit more. For three of us it was impossible. We had to use a shelf in the closet for our teenager's stuff. It would have been a perfect dressing room if there had been a mirror in there but there was not.

The towels and sheets were divine. I didn't know they were Frette, and that explains everything. I didn't care for the bath amenities though - wished they were more Hawaiian.

We were able to dine at Azure and no one said a word about a dress code and I am positive my husband was wearing sandals. Maybe they've already loosened up? The food was super and the service even better. The prices were actually very reasonable for the location. My daughter had a salad and an app for her dinner, husband and I both had salad & fish, he had a marguerita and it was all done with fresh juices. I don't like tequila but even I conceded it was great. We each had a glass of wine with dinner. Total bill was about $180. (Contrast that with our $75 breakfast and it's an amazing value.) If we hadn't had other plans, we would have gone again.

The spa had opened the weekend before our arrival so I had a lomi lomi massage. The service was excellent but they were really not quite ready to be open. Certain things were lacking, such as the jacuzzi being colder than the pool.

Tiny gripes: Pre-arrival, I could not get the concierge to respond to my emails promptly (2-3 days) and when she did, she did not answer my actual questions. I decided to wait until I was on-site and that was much better. We also had a bit of an issue with housekeeping inconsistencies/weirdness. They threw away some ziplock bags of nuts & raisins and such that I had left on the desk. Turn down was done differently each night, and only on 2 of the 3 nights.

Unfortunately, the weather during our stay was not stellar and that put a damper on beach and pool activities. It rained so hard at one point that the lobby was flooding. I think they are going to have to install some kind of door system because the staff was up all night trying to keep the water out of the elevator banks. They deserve much praise for their herculean efforts.

This is a gorgeous hotel and we would go back in a heartbeat. The OP's pictures are really fantastic (way better than mine!) and very much reflect the character of the place.
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Old Mar 31, 09, 7:22 pm
  #4  
 
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Response from the Royal Hawaiian Revenue Manager

Aloha and I'd first like to thank both of you for your sharing your wonderful experiences at The Royal Hawaiian. We are very excited about our transformation and it is greatly satisfying that the results of our hard work are paying off for our guests.

Thank you most kindly for the excellent feedback particularly regarding our unparalleled staff (we call them ambassadors) and our new restaurant, Azure. We are very proud of both of these areas of the resort and are happy that they exceeded your expectations and helped to make your stay with us more memorable.

Also, I would like to apologize for the irregularities you experienced with our housekeeping and with our concierge response time. I have passed your comments along to those departments and they will be promptly addressed. We are truly grateful that you have brought this to our attention because we certainly want our guests to have the best possible experience and your feedback helps us to direct our efforts to deliver flawless service.

Once again, on behalf of The Royal Hawaiian, thank you for your loyalty, kind words, and feedback for improvement and we hope to welcome you back to our iconic resort before too long!

Sincerely,
Kimberly Lottig
Revenue Manager
The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort
[email protected]
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Old Apr 3, 09, 10:59 pm
  #5  
 
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I stayed at the Royal Hawaiian (2 rooms) 3/10 – 3/14 with my wife and in-laws on a C&P reservation I made in October 2007. Yes, 2007. Although we had a somewhat rocky start, we all left very satisfied.

Check-in was conducted in a fairly lengthy fashion by a somewhat sarcastic associate who was all too pleased to offer to me rooms I didn’t want (garden suite + adjoining garden room with 2 beds). Yay! An adjoining room with my in-laws with no ocean view! This room assignment (it was explained to me) was based on the hotel’s policy of only extending 1 upgrade per SPG member. I guess they assumed I was traveling with my kids (which was mitigated by the Hawaiian quarantine requirements as well as the hotel’s pet policy) even though I had reserved 2 rooms with King beds. So take note Platinums traveling with your family, this means (unless policy changes) no ocean view via upgrade for you. After a long discussion of available inventory my in-laws took a (very partial) ocean view room with twin beds and my wife and I ended up with a Garden King that if you went right up to the window had a killer view of Diamond Head. The rooms are quite small. The sleeping portion of the room is normally sized, but the bathrooms are very, very cramped. The bathroom has a single vanity with a toilet wedged on one side and a standard size bathtub/shower (which I detest) on the other. I saw on the other post a picture of a standalone shower. Not sure which rooms have those. None of the rooms I saw had the stand-up shower which would have been a HUGE improvement. The fixtures and vanity are all top of the line Kohler and the marble is a brown/sand color that is an exact match to the marble I just put in my house in FL.

Given Kelly Hoen’s very active participation on this thread, I emailed her regarding my concerns related to the room assignments/Platinum recognition and she replied via phone inside of 24 hours. She was extremely apologetic and worked with me to remedy my issues over the course of my stay. My in-laws (who were staying an additional night) moved into a fantastic ocean junior suite (same bathroom configuration) and we stayed put. Kelly really did a fantastic job communicating her interest in satisfying a Platinum guest and allaying my concerns. Kelly should really be commended and I am certain with her leadership that any kinks related to Platinum recognition should be worked out in the near future.

So back to the stay report…..

I have to preface this entire report by saying (check-in notwithstanding) how great the entire staff (ambassadors) of the hotel are. They truly make you feel at home in a way that is truly graceful and Hawaiian. No snobbery at all. The valets were also very skilled at giving my wife some A+ trash talk each morning as she went for her morning runs in her New England Patriots hat (I’m a Steelers fan and heartily approved). Each time she returned with a report of the morning’s witty banter with the staff. Good fun….

Arrival in the rental car was pretty swift. Valet parking was mis-quoted by the valet at $29/day. Not wanting to mess with the shared parking deck with the gargantuan Sheraton next door, I willingly succumbed to the extra charges (and self parking was $19/day anyway). The correct charge for valet is $26/day and was correctly billed to my folio. Throughout the stay I found the valets to be extremely efficient - especially given the distances they needed to cover. Bags were quickly removed from the car and I was escorted by a young bellman to a sit-down style check-in desk. The bellman was fantastic. He stayed with me though the entire check-in process giving me the history of the hotel, how they had reconfigured the lobby/entry (he had worked at the hotel pre-renovation as well), knew all of the rooms in the hotel by heart (which was helpful at the time), and then escorted us to preview our rooms. The bellman was quick to say hello as we saw him at various times during our stay and ask how our stay was going. As I dealt with check-in the rest of my clan were making arrangements with the concierge. The concierge did a great job making recommendations and arrangements both before our arrival via email and in-person.

After getting settled in the room we made our way down to the Mai-Tai bar to get some sun and refreshment. The view from the bar is A+. Great view of Diamond Head and the water (of course). The mai-tais and appetizers were all excellent. The hotel, uniformly, has excellent cuisine and drinks. All top notch. I’m not much of a foodie, but my wife constantly grouses on the (lack of) quality of Starwood food and beverages and she consistently raved about everything food and drink related on property.

We ate at Azure twice (nights 1 and 3). I did not have any dress code issues described by another poster. I wore Reefs both times and I’m wiling to bet (but cannot recall for sure) that my father-in-law wore shorts seeing as I do not believe he owns a single pair of pants. The food at Azure is fantastic. On night 1 we had a fantastic (front) waiter originally from Germany who had a really great sense of humor (Hawaii never ceases to amaze me) and the back waiter was somewhat forgettable. On night 3 we had a very odd waiter combo. The service was good, but they were both a little odd. Surprisingly, the restaurant has a very reasonably priced wine list although you can do serious damage if you’re so inclined.

The concierge recommended two “activities” – one being a home run and one being a single. He recommended a sunset Mai Tai cruise that leaves from in front of the Sheraton next door. The cruise was very reasonable (I think $38/pp or so) and we gladly booked the tour believing that the cruise had a cash bar. Turns out it was all you can drink wine, Mai Tai’s, and beer. The crew was fantastic and we got some solid whale watching in. Perfect. The concierge and others also pushed “Rum Fire” as a fun place at the Sheraton. Probably was the least inspired experience we had along with a go at the breakfast buffet at the top of the Sheraton. The view is probably worth the experience of suffering the food.

In the morning the hotel sets out fresh, potent coffee just outside of the “bather’s elevator.” The coffee was great, but the supply of coffee, cups, and covers was poorly managed. Supplies were constantly running out for some reason.

The rooms have wireless Internet available, but the speed is pretty awful. Hopefully they can get this corrected. My wife and I depend on a number of cloud based applications and I often need to download very large databases as well. While I realize it’s not a business hotel, we typically don’t have the luxury of truly leaving work and at times the connection caused us significant pain.

For those seeking an upgrade, I will note that in the historic building there only appears (by my count) to be 5 direct ocean front rooms per floor (in a six floor building). Additionally, many of these rooms appear to be junior suites.

My in-laws had to deal with the lobby flooding that the previous poster described. We were already gone so can’t comment on what the heck was happening there…

All in all, my wife and I will likely be back given that we are addicted to Honolulu. The biggest consideration for those (and myself in the future) booking trips is whether or not one can justify paying almost double (either in points or dollars) over the nearby Westin Moana Surfrider, especially given that guests at all the Starwoods on Wakiki have charging privileges at all of the hotels. That being said, I fully expect to be back in 2010, but I’ll be sure to reserve an ocean-front junior suite on points next time around…..
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Old Apr 8, 09, 5:26 pm
  #6  
 
Join Date: Mar 2009
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Aloha and mahalo for sharing your comments and feedback regarding the Starwood properties in Waikiki. I am the Revenue Manager for The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort and I appreciate your taking the time to come and visit our resort following our $45 million renovation and I'm glad that you had a great experience at our beautiful sister property, The Moana Surfrider, a Westin Resort and Spa.

As with any historic building, our room shapes, sizes, and views vary. It is unfortunate that you were unhappy with the rooms that you were shown. We have many rooms with spectacular views, spacious layouts, and premium bathrooms. Our guest experience is elevated by the numerous special services we have available to our guests above and beyond beautiful guestrooms. Our signature concierge, unique beach and pool experiences that include beach boy services, 2 pools including a large resort pool and ultra-luxury cabanas, and innovative indigenous cuisines from award-winning chefs create magnificent connections with our resort and Hawaii. Also, our location is very unique to Waikiki set off of busy Kalakaua Avenue giving it the serene feel of a garden oasis.

Again, thank you very much for your feedback. If you have any further questions, feel free to conatct me regarding our SPG program.

Kimberly Lottig
Revenue Manager
The Royal Hawaiia, a Luxury Collection Resort
[email protected]
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Old Apr 15, 09, 10:35 am
  #7  
 
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Thank you all for your posts, I have appreciated and enjoyed each of them as I did the pictures. My wife and I might have the chance to stay here for one or two nights. Is there a room category that you would recomend? How would you compare rooms in the historic building to the Tower and the Royal Club? Are those three different locations? Mahalo.
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Old May 27, 09, 3:05 pm
  #8  
 
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On reports on stays in the Tower (post-reno)?

I thought I would bump this thread up a bit for recent reports. I am about to make reservations for my wife and 21 y.o. daughter for a 7 night stay in early July. I will pay for the stay with a combination of points and $$; depending on available packages through SPG. Though I am Plat, my wife is only Gold (through Amex Plat) and I will not be travelling with them. We haven't stayed at the RH before but my wife is looking to "test drive" it for a future stay for the 2 of us.

I'm not familiar with the rooms, especially post renovation, but my wife loves to soak in a tub every night so that is a must...the deeper the tub the better. My 2 "girls" also vastly prefer 2 sinks in the bathroom...for obvious reasons and I want at least a partial ocean view. I guess they either need 2 beds or one bed with enough room for a sofa bed or nice roll-away.

I'm looking for suggestions for room choices that would address these preferences (the tub is a must) and it's hard to figure that out from the website. Also, any suggestions on how to best combine points and $$ for a 7 night stay would be appreciated. Also, there is a reference in an earlier post to a Kelly Hoen, but I don't see her participation in the thread (though I do see a post from Kimberly Lottig that was very helpful). I'd love to email whichever of them might be the most help with my request. Is Kelly the more appropriate person?

Mahalo!
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Old Jun 1, 09, 7:00 pm
  #9  
 
Join Date: Mar 2009
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Clarification of tub availability at The Royal Hawaiian

Aloha again everyone. I would first of all like to thank clover for bringing it to my attention that there is confusion over the tub situation at The Royal Hawaiian. I hope this post will clarify.

At The Royal Hawaiian, I know some people have posted that they received a room with shower only and we do have many of these on property. However, I would like to make clear that the majority of our guestrooms and almost all of our suites do come equipped with a tub/shower combination. Our tub/shower and shower-only rooms all have handheld showerheads.

The showers in our new, shower-only rooms are rather spacious and luxurious. But, understandably, many people prefer to have a tub and if this is a preference, simply mention this as a special request to your reservations agent or put it in the free-text special request area when entering an online booking.

Thank you all very much once again for your support of our remarkable Waikiki icon and please have a wonderful week. As always, please contact me with any questions or comments that you may have.

Sincerely,

Kim Lottig
Revenue Manager
[email protected]
808-931-8863
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Old Jun 10, 09, 8:50 pm
  #10  
 
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The recent renovations at the Royal Hawaiian have had various consequences for the guest. First, the rooms I saw on a recent stay there were sparkling clean and crisp, with spotless walls and carpets, new furniture, and immaculate curtains. Nonetheless, there were some disappointments. Gone are the canopy beds, pink towels, and other luxurious touches that were a trade mark of the hotel. The bath and bed linens are now plain white, as in any other hotel. The furniture too is rather plain, in a sort of plasticized dark wood that can be found in other recently renovated Starwood hotels such as the Sheraton Gateway LAX. This sort of furniture is functional and fine for the Sheraton brand, but not what would be expected of a luxury hotel. Similarly, the bath amenities, instead of Moulton Brown, Aveda, L’Occitane, or some other well-known luxury brand, have some fancy sounding, but unknown, English name. The hotel would do better to follow the lead of Sheraton and use the Bliss products that have been so well received by guests at W hotels.

Taste is, of course, a very controversial theme. Let me simply say that the new wallpaper in our room had a bright purple-pink curlicue sort of design that might have been modeled on pineapples. The carpet has a similar dark green design. At least the inevitable eventual stains will be difficult to see.

In general, my overall impression was that the recent renovation of the hotel was very well executed, but the plan was tight-fisted and did not succeed in providing a feeling of luxury. Just a small example of penny-pinching: the hotel’s famous banana bread welcome amenity, which used be offered as a full-sized loaf, has been reduced to just a few mini muffins. As a long-time hotel employee remarked to me: “we’re now very snooty.” I would add, snooty, but not with a convincing feel of luxury.

On the platinum upgrade front, I was offered a choice between a so-called junior suite with ocean view and a genuine suite with no view. Of the two junior suites we saw, one was just a normal room as far as I could make out, having no discernible sitting area, but the other did indeed have a sofa and two chairs near the window. The suite had a bedroom and another entirely separate room with a huge table that appeared more appropriate to a board room than to a dining room. In general, upgrade possibilities are much better at the Westin Moana Surfrider or the Sheraton Waikiki. The situation at the Royal Hawaiian, according to another long-time employee, is similar to the Sheraton Hong Kong: the Royal Hawaiian simply will not offer a suite with view as an upgrade even if available. Another bit of news from the same source: all of the lower-end rates have been eliminated, so that the Royal Hawaiian is now much more expensive than the other Starwood properties.

In its public areas, the Royal Hawaiian does indeed possess an air of tranquility and grace missing in the other hotels, but the accommodation itself may be less attractive and more costly.
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Old Jun 10, 09, 10:07 pm
  #11  
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ajnaro, I really appreciate the time you took to write such a thoughtful and descriptive post. And I appreciate how you compared the property to the other Waikiki properties in terms of platinum upgrades we might expect. This was an extremely helpful post.
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Old Jun 11, 09, 12:04 am
  #12  
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I agree with SanDiego1K, this is a very insightful review and comparison. Thank you, ajnaro! ^ (And it reinforces why I choose the Moana over the RH when staying with SPG in Waikiki.)

Originally Posted by ajnaro View Post
. . . The situation at the Royal Hawaiian, according to another long-time employee, is similar to the Sheraton Hong Kong: the Royal Hawaiian simply will not offer a suite with view as an upgrade even if available.
This is what I have understood to be the case in the past, and is why I avoid this hotel when choosing a property in Waikiki. Even when I'm paying for an ocean-front room or suite, I'll go elsewhere, because of this perception.

RHRevMgr, since you are participating here on FT with us, I wonder if you can address this issue. It would be very interesting to hear hotel management's take on it.
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Old Jun 11, 09, 2:43 am
  #13  
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Originally Posted by ajnaro View Post
<snip> As a long-time hotel employee remarked to me: “we’re now very snooty.” I would add, snooty, but not with a convincing feel of luxury. <snip>
this small clip accurately describes the feel we got when scoping out the royal hawaiian in january, before changing our february stay to the moana (where we got a terrific suite upgrade, btw).

i'd be interested in hearing what RHRevMgr has to say on the upgrade issue as well, since i was told by the woman who took us to see a room that they have so many platinums checking in on a daily basis that people are likely to be disappointed if expecting/hoping for suite upgrades.
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Old Jun 11, 09, 7:58 am
  #14  
 
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Platinum Upgrades

On the upgrade front, it seems that various factors have to be taken into account. First, the ROYAL HAWAIIAN is an old hotel that was built at a time when ocean views were not as prestigious or sought after as now. For a while, sea breezes were actually considered unhealthy, at least for some people. The physical positioning of the building does not, therefore, maximize the amount of ocean front space available for rooms. Second, to judge by comments I heard while there, the hotel uses much of the ocean front space it has available to attract groups of high spending tourists, mainly from Japan. This apparently has much higher priority than attracting SPG Platinum guests, presumably because it produces a more reliable revenue stream. These groups, after all, are supplied by a relatively small number of operators who have to be kept contented. SPG Platinum members, on the other hand, are dispersed. If the hotel disappoints some of them, the others may never even find out so there will be few consequences in terms of depressing future business. And that business may not actually be very desirable since Platinum members tend to use free weekends, award stays paid for with points earned on the mainland, and corporate discount codes. The ROYAL HAWAIIAN may well have more Platinum SPG guests than it judges propitious to profitability. It seems to me that as Platinum SPG members we simply have to accept that we are low priority for the ROYAL HAWAIIAN and will be treated accordingly.
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Old Jun 11, 09, 10:06 am
  #15  
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Very thoughtful analysis, ajnaro. I can understand why the hotel would and should be driven by maximizing revenues. Fortunately, the Moana Surfrider has the inventory to give its platinum guests great ocean view room and suite assignments while in parallel pleasing its Japanese guests. It's now clear it will remain my Waikiki home going forward.
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